Biden: Plan to cut methane emissions 'one of most important things we can do'

"It's one of the most potent greenhouse gases there is," U.S. President Joe Biden said Tuesday of methane emissions.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a speech during a session on clean innovation and technology at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday. Photo by Robert Perry/EPA-EFE
1 of 4 | U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a speech during a session on clean innovation and technology at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday. Photo by Robert Perry/EPA-EFE

Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Amid its push to tackle climate change, the Biden administration unveiled sweeping plans on Tuesday to drastically reduce the nation's methane emissions, a leading greenhouse gas and a major contributor to climate change.

The rules were announced as this year's U.N. Climate Change Conference was being held in Glasgow, Scotland, where President Joe Biden on Monday pledged the United States will hit its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.


The plan announced Tuesday is a whole-of-government approach that focuses on cutting methane from the United States' largest emitting sources with emphasis on the oil and gas industry, which accounts for 30% of methane emissions, followed by enteric fermentation at 27%, landfills at 17%, manure management at 10%, other sources at 9% and coal mining at 7%.

"One of the most important things we can do in this decisive decade -- to keep 1.5 [degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels] in reach -- is reduce our methane emissions as quickly as possible," Biden told reporters at an event marking the pledge.


"It's one of the most potent greenhouse gases there is. It amounts to about half the warming we're experiencing today -- just the methane exposure."

The new rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency would reduce methane emissions by about 75% or 41 million cumulative tons of methane between 2023 and 2035, the administration said.

Under the clean Air Act, the EPA proposes updates and strengthening of current requirements for new sources, broadens the types of sources covered and encourages the development of technologies to reduce pollution from the oil and natural gas sources.

It would also set limits for the first time on existing oil and gas sources, as well as targeting leaks and repairs.

"It's going to improve health, reduce asthma, respiratory-related emergencies," Biden added. "It's going to improve the food supply, as well by cutting crop losses and related ground-level pollution. It's going to boost our economies -- saving companies money, reducing methane leaks, capturing methane to turn it into new revenue streams, as well as creating good-paying union jobs."

The Department of Interior will be proposing rules regulating excessive venting and flaring of gas by requiring oil and gas operators to pay royalties and strengthening "financial assurance requirements" to ensure operators properly plug wells to prevent long-term leaks.


The EPA estimates that 40% of the nation's 2.7 million abandoned oil wells and 600,000 gas wells are unplugged, emitting an estimated 263,000 metric tons of methane in 2019.

The Department of Transportation plans to reduce methane emissions through reducing leaks throughout the some 3 million miles of oil and gas pipelines and hundreds of underground gas storage facilities through the imposition of new requirements and an automatic shut-off valve rule, among other new rules.

A senior official told reporters during a teleconference on background that the new safety regulations will cover some 400,000 miles of previously unregulated gathering lines, as well as 2.3 million miles of pipelines networking cities that have not been regulated.

The U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan also includes new regulations over methane emissions from landfills and the industries of agriculture and transportation and other so-called need-to-abate sectors.

The White House also said Tuesday that more than 90 governments will announce later in the day that they have joined the United States and the European Union in pledging to reduce the world's methane emissions 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.

Biden said the United States could "probably go beyond" the 30% target.

The White House said it is tackling methane as its warming impact on the globe is about 80 times that of carbon dioxide.


The United Nations Environment Program said in August that methane alone has accounted for 30% of global warning since pre-industrial times.

In its yearly assessment on global methane, the agency said more than half of global methane emissions come from human activities in three sectors: agriculture at 40%, fossil fuels at 35% and waste at 20%.

During the meeting in Glasgow on Tuesday, Biden also announced a plan to conserve global forests and a platform to speed up clean the development of energy technology.

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